You Are Not Your Thoughts
“Your circumstances may be uncongenial, but they shall not remain so if you only perceive an ideal and strive to reach it. You cannot travel within and stand still without.” — James Allen
What were you thinking a moment ago?
Was it positive, uplifting or disempowering?
Notice the feelings generated by the thoughts.
Are they pleasant, neutral or disagreeable?
If you’re able to move your attention to your emotions, congratulations, you know how to ride the wave of a positive thought.
What do I mean by that?
If you observe a surfer on a wave, you’ll notice it will turn into a large swell at one point. With enough momentum it surges into a larger wave, carrying the surfer to the shoreline.
Thoughts come and go from the landscape of your mind like ocean waves. New thoughts enter your stream of consciousness every one second. This means thoughts don’t last, unless you direct your attention towards specific ones.
You live in the feelings of your thoughts, not the outside circumstances that influence them. External conditions do not impose upon your thinking, however it can produce an emotional response if the stimuli is strong enough.
“Truth is: Getting stopped by a thought, negative or positive, lays the groundwork for any disconcerting experience. It’s never what we think, but that we think that gets us into hot water,” affirms sports psychologist Garret Kramer in, The Path of No Resistance: Why Overcoming is Simpler than You Think.
Some days a thought produces a negative emotion while other days it’s insignificant.
What has changed apart from the day?
You react to your surroundings on those occasions for unknown reasons, i.e. tired, moody, hungry, etc. At that time you’re ruled by your thinking more so.
Your mind doesn’t differentiate between a positive or negative thought. It doesn’t register them in this manner — but you do, as the observer. When you label thoughts, you assign them importance over others, so they occupy space in your mind.
I want to be clear: You are not your thoughts.
You are not your thoughts, because they appear and dissolve from your mind and none are permanent. They may be repeated often, but they are never permanent. To imply you are what you think is misleading, to the degree you might experience a positive thought one moment and a negative one the next. If you are defined by that distinction, who are you according to this narrative?
If you live in the feelings of your thoughts and experience an anxious thought, it doesn’t imply you’re an anxious person. It means you experienced a thought which produced anxiety in your body. You may have an illuminating thought the next moment which cancels the earlier one. There are exceptions of course, governed by a clinical diagnosis by a trained mental health professional.
Choose More Balanced Thoughts
“Work joyfully and peacefully, knowing that right thoughts and right efforts will inevitably bring about right results.” — James Allen
So the question arises, who are you then?
Garret Kramer affirms once more, “All you really need to do is leave your thoughts alone. Why? Because when left alone, as we’ve seen, all thoughts are impotent. You’re free to excel no matter when or where a negative, or even a positive, thought invades your brain.”
The key to overcome unwelcomed thoughts is not to eject them from your mind, but to be mindful of them. Approximately 50,000–70,000 thoughts pass through your mind every day. Thoughts flood into your consciousness on a moment-to-moment basis, like a TV show streamed online.
If thoughts flow into your consciousness, how can you reduce the impact of the negative ones?
By being mindful of disempowering thoughts, you bring them to the forefront of your mind and become conscious, rather than unconscious of them.
Unconscious thoughts are part of the landscape of your mind. Similar to streaming a TV show on a computer, you can be distracted by a pop-up window selling you a product or service. Your intention is to view the show, yet the distraction pulls you away from it. Unconscious thoughts have the same effect. They emerge from nowhere and can lead you to dark places if you’re unaware.
“The pain that you create now is always some form of non-acceptance, some form of unconscious resistance to what is. On the level of thought, the resistance is some form of judgement. On the emotional level, it is some form of negativity. The intensity of the pain depends on the degree of resistance to the present moment, and this in turn depends on how strongly you are identified with your mind,” states author Eckhart Tolle.
The key is to recognise your conscious thoughts without invoking negative feelings or adding a narrative. You do so by witnessing them through the eyes of equanimity, instead of reacting with negative emotions or actions.
To ride the wave of positive thought, first note the feelings produced in your body. Note your emotional response without becoming invested in them.
Eckhart Tolle states, “Emotion arises at the place where mind and body meet. It is the body’s reaction to your mind — or you might say, a reflection of your mind in the body.”
Empowering thoughts have an enriching quality, demonstrating they are in harmony and balance. Thoughts that produce an uncomfortable sensation, is your body’s way of showing you they are out of alignment.
In this setting, the body is a feedback instrument informing you of your thinking.
You needn’t be attentive to every thought. Yet, if you’re aware how those thoughts generate positive or negative emotions, it’s possible to choose more balanced thoughts.
When an inspiring thought emerges, move into your body and notice your emotional response.
Is it in your chest, stomach or elsewhere?
How does it feel?
Is it a tingling sensation that radiates or does it move to other regions?
Meditation is useful when sitting with your thoughts in a quiet setting. Even as little as five minutes in silence helps you become acquainted with your thoughts, instead of passing through your mind without conscious awareness.
To ride the wave of a positive thought, note the feelings they produce while shifting your awareness to them.
As you witness your thoughts, your awareness observes them thus diminishing their intensity.
In time, you create longer streams of positive thoughts, having become familiar with their ebb and flow.